And now we have 'Tis, the story of Frank's American journey from impoverished immigrant to brilliant teacher and raconteur. Frank lands in New York at age nineteen, in the company of a priest he meets on the boat. He gets a job at the Biltmore Hotel, where he immediately encounters the vivid hierarchies of this "classless country," and then is drafted into the army and is sent to Germany to train dogs and type reports. It is Frank's incomparable voice -- his uncanny humor and his astonishing ear for dialogue -- that renders these experiences spellbinding.
When Frank returns to America in 1953, he works on the docks, always resisting what everyone tells him, that men and women who have dreamed and toiled for years to get to America should "stick to their own kind" once they arrive. Somehow, Frank knows that he should be getting an education, and though he left school at fourteen, he talks his way into New York University. There, he falls in love with the quintessential Yankee, long-legged and blonde, and tries to live his dream. But it is not until he starts to teach -- and to write -- that Frank finds his place in the world. The same vulnerable but invincible spirit that captured the hearts of readers in Angela's Ashes comes of age.
As Malcolm Jones said in his Newsweek review of Angela's Ashes, "It is only the best storyteller who can so beguile his readers that he leaves them wanting more when he is done...and McCourt proves himself one of the very best." Frank McCourt's 'Tis is one of the most eagerly awaited books of our time, and it is a masterpiece.
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With 'Tis, Frank McCourt brings us the remarkable sequel to the Pulitzer prize-winning Angela's Ashes. McCourt, as narrator and protagonist, picks up just where he left off, upon his arrival in New York as a young Irish immigrant. True to form, McCourt narrates his life adventure with the innocence of a young man fearful and alone in the world.
We first find McCourt working to make ends meet at the Biltmore Hotel. There he interacts with kitchen workers, hotel staff, and guests, all of whom are from different backgrounds. This disparate bunch is made up of people of all ages, religions, classes, and nationalities. Though repeatedly warned to "stick with your own kind," McCourt finds his true kinship with these lost young immigrants.
The narrative continues with McCourt finding his way in America through work and study. He receives what proves to be life-changing advice from Irish bar owner Tim Costello, who encourages the young McCourt to get an education. In one scene, Costello throws McCourt out of his bar because McCourt cannot identify Samuel Johnson, the English poet, lexicographer, and gentleman. (He then sends McCourt to the New York public library to read The Lives of the English Poets.)
McCourt eventually becomes a high school teacher, teaching creative writing. He marries and begins a family. And he discovers a love for a popular Irish past-time - drinking. Not one to overlook his own faults, McCourt recounts how his drinking takes its toll on his marriage.
More than just the story of one man, 'Tis is the continuation of the story of the McCourt family. There are powerful, tense scenes between McCourt and his father, who struggle to come to terms with a painful past, but there is much humor, too. With less misery than Angela's Ashes, 'Tis provides the reader a funny and warm look at a young man coming of age - and finding his voice. ¶
Porter Field practices law in Memphis, Tennessee.